Of the testimony of the ancient fathers to the truth of purgatory.

IT is a beautiful thing, and one full of all consolation, to see the perfect correspondence which the present Church has with the ancient, particularly in belief. Let us mention what makes to our purpose concerning Purgatory.All the ancient Fathers have believed in it, and have testified that it was of Apostolic faith. Here are the authors we have for it. Among the disciples of the Apostles, S. Clement and S. Denis. Afterwards, S. Athanasius, S. Basil, S. Gregory Nazianzen, Ephrem, Cyril, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Gregory Nyssen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Origen, Boethius, Hilary, that is, all antiquity as far back as 1200 years ago, which was the time before which these Fathers lived. It would have been easy for me to bring forward their testimonies, which are accurately collected in the books of our Catholics; -of Canisius, in his Catechism, of Sanders On the Visible Monarchy, of Genebrard in his Chronology, of Bellarmine in his Controversy on Purgatory, of Stapleton in his Promptuary. But particularly let those who would see at length and faithfully quoted the passages of the ancient Fathers, take up the work of Canisius, revised by Buzaeus.

Certainly, however, Calvin spares us this trouble, in Book iii. of his Institutions (c. 5, ~I0), where he thus speaks: “More than 1300 years ago it was received that prayers should be offered for the dead;” and afterwards he adds: “But all, I confess, were dragged into error.” We need not then seek out the names and the localities of the ancient Fathers to prove Purgatory, since in reckoning their value Calvin puts them at zero. What likelihood that one single Calvin should be infallible and that all antiquity should have gone wrong! It is said that the ancient Fathers have believed in Purgatory to accommodate themselves to the vulgar. A fine excuse! was it not for the Fathers to correct the people’s error if they saw them erring, not to keep it up and give in to it? This excuse then is but to accuse the Ancients. But how shall we say the Fathers have not honestly believed in Purgatory, since Aerius, as I have said before, was held to be a heretic because he denied it? It is a shame to see the audacity with which Calvin treats S. Augustine, because he prayed and got prayers for his mother S. Monica; and the only pretext he brings forward is that S. Augustine, in Book 21 of the de Civitate seems to doubt about the fire of Purgatory. But this is nothing to the purpose; for it is true that S. Augustine says one may doubt of the fire and of the nature thereof, but not of Purgatory. Now whether the purgation is made by fire or otherwise, whether or no the fire have the same qualities as that of hell, still there ceases not to be a purgation and a Purgatory. He puts not then Purgatory in question but the quality of it; as will never be denied by those who will look how he speaks of it in chapters 16 and 24 of the same Book of the de Civitate, and in the work De Curd Pro Mortins Agenda, and a thousand other places. See then how we are in the track of the holy and ancient Fathers, as to this article of Purgatory.